BENGALURU: When we talk about Indian festivals, Sankranti is usually not the first festival that is brought up. Google ‘Indian festivals’, and you’ll find images of the colours of Holi and the lights of Diwali. If you work in IT, Christmas and New Year are always close to one’s heart for the sheer debauchery that ensues. Sankranti is usually never mentioned, and I have firmly believed that it is quite the underrated festival.
Sankranti is not a very ‘showy’ festival. You will not find the city painted red, or music blaring from vehicles as they pass you by. But look closely, and you will find Sankranti quietly going about its work of uniting families. Look even closer, and you will find even the poshest apartments put out a colourful rangoli at the entrance. Walk into the narrower lanes, and you will find kids running around with kites, their parents screaming behind them.
The other under-appreciated aspect of Sankranti is its food. The last two months of the year – November and December – involve guzzling down a lot of food. Food that is washed down by booze, food at office parties, and food leftover after the madness. After all the binge eating, Sankranti food feels like a detox. It is the beginning of the solar calendar year, and we are all fresh off our fresh new year resolutions. The menu is limited to lemon rice and payasam, and a few fried savouries. These savouries aren’t for immediate consumption, but to be stored and savoured later. The food is mostly vegetarian, and easy on the insides. I wonder if our ancestors predicted our battles with fitness and cholesterol.
The other important aspect of Indian festivals is the customs. And in that sense, Sankranti is a very relaxed festival. There are no elaborate customs to be upheld, or poojas and aratis to perform. One needs to wake up early, take a shower, and wear new clothes – and one is ready to partake in the festivities. When I grew up, Sankranti involved symbolic ‘disposing’ of old items (mostly my school uniform), to give way for new clothes. After lunch, we would all sit down and watch a movie. Unlike other Indian festivals, Sankranti has a relaxed air to it.
With Sankranti, it seems like our ancestors had a foreboding about the use of solar calendars. They had a premonition about IT jobs and Christmas and New Year parties. So they instituted a festival that is easy on our bodies, minds and souls. A festival that is about meeting family members, having food, and watching a film on the television.
Sankranti is an underrated festival, but it fulfils a very important role in the year. Two weeks into the new year, the festival calls out to say, ‘Hey, it’s the new year. You’re two weeks in, and you need a break’. In a time when the entire world seems to be burning, Sankranti is when we realise that the safest place in the world, is at home with our families. Happy Sankranti!
The author is a writer and a comedian.